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Immigration USA

Referat / Aufsatz (Schule) 2000 6 Seiten

Didaktik - Englisch - Landeskunde


I think from these caricatures you can see two things.

On the one hand the Statue of Liberty is a symbol for Immigration to all of the Americans. For settlers coming by ship, the Statue was one of the first things they saw of their „promised land“. The inscription on the basement shows how important the role of immigration was in former times. I’m going to quote:

[original inscription]

[German translation]

But on the other hand you can see that immigration today isn’t as welcome and positively seen as it was some hundred years ago. Many Americans feel threatend by the never ending flood of Mexicans, Europeans, Asians or whatever may come. But in the end, nearly every American, apart from the relatively small percentage of native Americans, is an immigrant.

So now I will come to the history of immigration. Many Americans distinguish between Colonists, settlers coming to America during the colonial period, and Immigrants, settlers coming after the nation had declared its independence.

The stream of colonists owards the newly discovered land started even before the Pilgrims of the Mayflower arrived, although many people think they were the first ones. In fact, the first permanent settlement was founded in Jamestown, Virginia in1607. Nearly all of the settlers were coming from England because of religious reasons or for economical opportunities and the few ones coming from other countries were mostly members of the same religious groups or even distant relatives of the English pilgrims. Many of them settled on the coastal plains and so most of the settlements founded in the following years were in th region of what is today New England. Examples for that are the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony, founded in1629 and Pennsylvania, founded by William Penn, a rich Quaker, in 1681. [map] In the next few years America more and more got a refuge for several persecuted sects.

Nearly all of the settlers had the same cultural background, they had the same physical features, the same origin and the same religion. Thus a special ethnic group developed which is still one of the most important ones in the US today: The White Anglo Saxon Protestant culture, also called the WASP-culture.

In the first years after the nation‘s independence only few settlers came. But it was in those times that about half a million Blacks were shipped in to be slaves until slave trade was prohibited by provision of the Constitution in 1808. Today the Blacks are seen as a non-voluntary kind of immigrants.

As time went by more and more settlers were coming. The main sources were England, Germany, Sweden, Norway and France. Many of the newcomers were working in northern industrial towns. Employers preferred immigrant labour because it was much cheaper and because most of the settlers didn’t have the courage and the knowledge to defend themselves against exploitation.

In the first half of the 19th century terretorial expansion began. With more and more settlers coming the young nations need for land grew. More and more settlers left the east coast to find new, unsettled and fertile land in the west. The US bought more and more land, the most famous example for this is the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 until the whole area known as the USA today, got complete with the Gadsen Purchase in 1853. The expression „frontier movement“ was born, the frontier was the imaginary line that divided settled land from unsettled. Of course a negative consequence of the settlement were the constant fights with the Indians who tried desperately to keep their land. But the white settlers firmly believed in their manifest destiny and the opening up of the west was unstopable, so that the west coast was soon settled, too. [pictures]

But at once two new problems emerged. The first one had to do with the terretorial expansion. As economy and industry throughout the wohle nation and especially on both of the coasts grew the need for a good transportation system got bigger and bigger. So two railroad companies, the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific started to put down the tracks for a transcontinental railroad. For this work 7 000 Chinese immigrants were employed and sometimes even specially imported to do this job and they came, although their living conditions were almost unbearable. But the old immigrants didn’t like the newcomers. The Chinese were too different concerning outward apperance, religion, habits and culture to be simply assimilated to the WASP culture. They seperated themselves from the rest of the population and the population didn’t want to accept them. They always remained something particular.

Thus they were the first ones to be concerned, when the government decided to restrict immigration. In the 1870s unemployment increased and the Europeans began to accept low paid jobs - like the ones the Chinese had done before, especially railway constructions. Suddenly the Chinese were not necessary anymore, they were even accused of taking away the jobs of American railway constructors. The Chinese, even those who had been living in the US for years and those who had never seen China because they were just ancestors of the original immigrants were discriminated against. In 1882, the government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited Chinese immigration completely for almost a century. The second problem were the Irish. In 1845 and 1846 Ireland had to suffer from two potato famines. In these two years nearly a million Irish people died of starvation. So it was quite understandable, that those who had the money tried to escape to America. Their arrival in such large numbers caused fear and hatred among the Americans. They were Protestants and the Irish were Catholics - a mixture that didn’t combine very well in the US. In the 1890s the American Protective Association, an anti - Catholic organisation got bigger and bigger. The members e.g. had to promise not to employ an Irishman if they also had the possibility of employing a Protestant. Even in the 20th century the dislike between Catholics and Protestants remained. Thus the election of John F. Kennedy as the first Catholic president of Irish origin was a very important event. [picture]

In the last years of the 19th century the main sources of immigration changed once more. Until then most of the immigrants had been coming from northwestern Europe, but now more and more settlers from southern and eastern Europe arrived. They were generally poorer and less well-educated than most of the former immigrants and like the Chinese workers they were very hard to assimilate to the WASP culture. More and more people demanded the restriction of Immigration. But the government hesitated. America had always been an opportunity and sometimes a refuge for those who needed one and the government had always remained neutral with regard to immigration.

But at last the politicians agreed that something had to be done. Again the ones to be excluded were people from an Asian country. In addition to the Chinese Exclution Act the Gentlemen’s agreement stopped Japanese Immigration.

In 1917 a literacy test, where future immigrants had to show that they could read and write was passed. But even this measure didn’t satisfy opponents of mass immigration. So in 1924 an Immigration Act was passed. According to it, the number of immigrants per year was reduced to a very small percentage of the people of this origin already living in the US. The maximum of immigrants was to be some 150 000 per year. The result of this legislation was that old immigration countries like Germany and especially Britain had large quotas and others had small ones. This system was called the national- origins system. [picture]

During and after World War II many newcomers arrived. Jews, displaced persons, orphans and war brides were fleeing first Hitler and later the regimes of Cuba, Hungary, Russia and other communist countries. Special quotas were established and arrangements were made to take at least most if not all of them. In 1952 the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed. It maintained the national- origins system, but it established quotas for Asia and other previously excluded areas. In the 1960s Amendmends to this Act replaced the national- origins system with one quota for the Western and one for the Eastern Hemisphere. As a result many people from Asian countries who had been nearly excluded before immigrated. In 1985 the Immigration Reform Act, concerning illegal Immigration was passed, but I’ll tell you more about it later.

In 1991 another new immigration law came into being. The number of immigrants allowed to come was increased up to 700 000 for 1992 - 1994 and to 675 000 in the following years. The reason for this was that the small quota before had limited the number of highly skilled or educated people coming to the US. But the government needs them for industrial, technological and economical progress. Immigration was also not limited for relatives of native-born or naturalised citizens any longer. [picture]

Now I want to talk about illegal immigration. Scientists are not quite sure how many illegal immigrants live in the US today and so the numbers differ from 6 million to 12 million people. The majority of the illegal immigrants are Hispanics coming from Mexico and entering Texas or California. Their amount is about 60 %. Aside from coming over the Mexican or the Canadian border they arrive by plane with false papers, or stay after their tourist or student visas have expired. Many Americans are concerned about illegal immigration. They are afraid of the immigrants taking away their jobs, or, a nicer suspicion, of being badly exploited by their employers. Members of the WASP culture feel especially threatened by the large number of Hispanics coming, because they have a strong sense of their own culture. Today over 100 organisations exist that fight for their demands, support bilingual education and so on.

For these reasons the so called Immigration and Naturalization Service makes great effords to stop the illigeal flows right at the borders and to deport groups already living in the US if they can catch them.

In addition the government passed the Immigration Control and Reform Act in 1986. It should „keep the front door open“ to legal immigrants while „closing the back door“ to illegal ones.

But this measures don’t solve the problem completely and especially illegal immigration causes a lot of difficulties about which I’m going to talk later. In the 20th century scientists developed theories for the American population. The most famous theory ist the so called melting pot theory. This means that all the people coming to Ameria give up their individual nationalities and customs to become a part of, to „melt into“, the WASP culture. But this theory only functioned until the middle of the 19th century. Up to then nearly all of the settlers were coming from northwestern Europe. Of course, they didn’t have exactly the same cultural background, but they had the same physical features, they were all Christians although of different confessions and they had some other things in common. So it was easy for them to assimilate. After about 1950 a lot of non European settlers started flowing into the US e.g. the Chinese and they didn’t want to adapt and become a part of the WASP culture.

Thus it came to the second theory, the salad bowl notion (also known as vegetable soup or rainbow). According to this theory the individual elements come together and mix, but they do not melt and each element is a particular part of the whole being. The disadvantage of this theory is that in a salad bowl the single ingredients are not combined but completely seperated and this is not true because some ethnic groups in the USA are combined and mixed.

So yet another theory had to be developed, the pizza concept. The base is the Anglo-Saxon culture. The single ingredients are added later and then some elements combine, others do not combine at all, but they are all together part of the same thing, or in the case of the US part of the same nation.

I told you I was going to tell you some results of mass immigration, especially of illegal and thus uncontrolled immigration

The first one is in fact not something that might happen in the future but something that is already going on. In some areas the Spanish speaking population has grown so strong that many people don’t care to learn English any more. They can easily lead a good and rather wealthy life without a new language. Many schools and even authorities have to publish their announcements in two languages. Laws and official documents have to be in Spanish as well. This developement is to get stronger during the next years. The American WASP society is to become a bicultural society of Hispanic and WASP origin, like Canada already is one. [picture]

The next thing is something also concerning the Spanish- speaking immigrants. The Immigration Reform and Control Act, about which I already talked also included an amnesty for illegal immigrants who could prove that they had been working in the USA since 1981, and scientists expect a similar amnesty to come in the future.

The last prognosis is in fact no real prognosis but already reality: Many Americans feel seriously threatend by the never ending flow of immigrants. Their reactions reach from simple dislike to openly practised discrimination. But the worst of all these reactions is that in the last few years many people turned to right-wing extremism. Of course the classic example of right-wing extremism, the Ku Klux Clan profits from this developement very much, but there have also been founded many new groups and especially the anonymity of the mass medium internet helps them to provide their work. The measure the government and privat persons take is rather strange. They don’t prohibit such organisations but they start lawsuits against them. The right-wing organisations sometimes have to pay thousands of dollars and for example the Ku Klux Clan is nearly bankrupt these days. The success of this method is controversial, because mostly the organisations find donators to give them the money they need. Scientists expect right-wing extremism to get even stronger, because so many people keep on coming to the „land of opportunities“.


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Titel: Immigration USA